A couple friends asked if creating the worst possible character for your story was absolutely necessary. Remember that SAVE THE CAT is a book for screenwriters. And Blake Snyder assumes that when writing a screenplay a writer would like to snag an agent and go to Hollywood. If so, that means writing a high concept screenplay. Let’s investigate.
What does this mean?
Creating the worst possible character means finding the person who by just a glance would fail at the story goal, either because of lack of skill or lack of desire. (Loads of potential may lie beneath the surface.)
According to Blake Snyder this means finding the character who offers the most conflict in that situation and has the longest way to go emotionally.
Anna and the French Kiss – Anna absolutely did not want to be left at a private school in Paris. (How different would that story have been if Anna was headstrong and couldn’t wait to break away from her parents and travel?)
Before I Fall – Samantha was an unlikeable self-centered popular girl before she died and started living the same day over 7 times. (If she’d been a humble, kind outcast she wouldn’t have had as powerful an internal journey.)
Heist Society – Cat Bishop leaves the family business to be a normal girl – even though she has the skill to be a thief.
Princess for Hire – small town girl has to sub for royalty? Clearly worst possible choice – but turns out to be the best.
Harry Potter – Need I explain? What if Harry had been more like Draco?
How does it relate to high concept?
When creating a high-concept logline and story premise you want the reader to immediately think of potential scenes, see the potential conflict, and root for the character. And that means finding the best-worst character.
Is it absolutely needed for your story?
What do you think?
I don’t think you have to create a character like this. It depends on your story. But if your character isn’t the worst possible choice for the role then she/he must have flaws/problems – and lots of them.
- Instant internal and external conflict
- Creates reader empathy
- Creates lots of potential in the reader’s mind for your book
Let’s brainstorm in the comments when it’s okay not to follow this concept. Can you think of any successful examples in literature? Sherlock Holmes anyone? There are lots of them. What made those characters successful then?